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For the foreseeable future, Kyrie Irving is done playing and practicing with the Nets. And they would love to be done talking about him.
Irving tried to clear the air Wednesday night, but instead just muddied the waters. In a long social media monologue he discussed his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and said he had been promised he would be allowed to play despite staying unvaccinated.
But that’s not happening, with his refusal to adhere to New York City vaccine mandates keeping him from playing at home and the Nets deciding not to use Irving at all. Or in coach Steve Nash’s case, even tune in to his Instagram Live rant.
“I didn’t listen to it, and I’ve pretty much said everything I’ve had to say about it,” Nash said before Thursday’s preseason-ending 107-101 win over Minnesota. “If something changes, we’ll talk about it.”
Nash may be being naïve on that end. It’s a story that isn’t going to completely go away until Irving is playing or traded. Kevin Durant admitted as much.
“It’s going to come up throughout the year. It may not be an everyday thing like it is now, but I’m sure it’s going to come up here and there. But we’re pros: We understand. We know [the media has] a job to do, so it’s on us to focus in on our job and answer the questions. We are not going to get irritated at what you all ask. It’s part of the job.”
As far as Irving, he took to Instagram Live to say he just wanted to do his job, implying that he’d been promised he could play despite remaining unvaccinated.
“What would you do if you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you’d have exemptions or that you didn’t have to be forced to get the vaccine?” Irving said. “This wasn’t an issue before the season started.”
Irving never said who or what organization misled him.
The NBA has its own set of health and safety protocols that — while they fall short of a vaccine mandate, something the NBPA has been against — are still restrictive for unvaccinated players. The NBA offers exemptions, but sources told The Post that Irving is not believed to have applied for one.
Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins applied for a religious exemption but was rejected.
The New York City mandates supersede anything that the league might rule.
More than 700,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19. A recent scientific study showed that more than 90,000 deaths since June would’ve been avoided with vaccinations, and a staggering 49,000 last month alone.
The NBA sent a memo to all its teams on Sept. 1 that the league and its teams would follow all local mandates. New York mandates took hold on Sept. 13.
By Sept. 24, the league had announced that it had rejected Wiggins’ request for an exemption. The Warriors forward relented and promptly got vaccinated. But Irving doesn’t appear set to relent anytime soon.
“I definitely want Kyrie to be around. I wish none of this stuff would’ve happened,” Durant said. “But this is the situation that we’re in. Kyrie made his decision on what he wanted to do and he chose to do what he wanted to do and the team did the same.”
Irving stated his stance wasn’t political or anti-vaccine, but the unintended consequences have been becoming a far-right darling, praised by Donald Trump Jr., senator Ted Cruz and congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Oh, and damaging the Nets’ title chances.
Durant (and later James Harden) came to Brooklyn to try to win alongside Irving. When asked why they’re not upset, a sage Durant was philosophical.
“What’s being mad going to do? We’re not going to change his mind. We’ll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do,” Durant said. “I can’t be too mad at somebody making a decision for themselves. Who am I to get upset at that? Just focus on what we got in this locker room. When Ky’s ready, I’m sure he’ll talk to [owner] Joe [Tsai] and [general manager] Sean [Marks] and they’ll figure it out and they’ll tell us. Until then we are going to keep grinding.”